Fern Bar

On my way out of the office this evening, a co-worker mentioned that she was attending one of those focus groups that pay particpants for giving their open and honest feedback. The kind where I would be very tempted to lie through my teeth.

In any event, the topic of market research was “casual dining restaurants”. I made a passing remark about those kind of establishments being known as “fern bars” and a discussion ensued.

Possible etymoligies thrown out by the two of us:

  • Code/slang for gay bar
  • Originally mentioned in Doonesbury
  • Reference to presence of ferns (or fake plants of any variety) near the bar

Here’s the history proposed by our friend, the internet:

A Fern Bar was an 1980’s upscale or preppy bar or tavern usually decorated with ferns or other “fussy” plants.

Very often Fern Bars were gay bars where effeminate or poofy gays gathered. Consequently the term Fern Bar was a euphemism or slang for gay bar.

So not exactly Applebee’s, T.G.I. Friday’s or Ruby Tuesday’s but that’s how I use the term now. Consequently, we were 2/3 correct in our assessment. Go us!

See also Urban Dictionary.

3 thoughts on “Fern Bar

  1. I not sure the term hasn’t been retconned into a gay term since my [hetero] mother has spoken of going to fern bars to hang out in the early 80’s. Of course, she did have a son [me] who turned out queer, so… maybe? Also under consideration, fern bars in Birmingham, Alabama might not have been what a fern bar anywhere else was. You know?

  2. Is that an indignant “Hmpf!” or a haughty “Hmpf!”?

    Are you chiding me for mentioning (supposedly) gay culture or are you shrugging it off?

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